Jump in the Poole

Sure, J.M. Smith is gone, but the new guy knows what he's talking about as well

Marijuana is a messy business these days. It's growing very, very fast, and with that comes confusion.

Across the nation, there is a need for medical marijuana information on every front. Patients, doctors, business owners, investors, lawmakers, city and state and county officials, advocates and many other subsets of our society crave solid, credible information about cannabis. Even reporters are getting things wrong at an alarming rate. I see a ridiculous number of mistakes or misconceptions coming from the mainstream media (there is no such thing as a marijuana "prescription"), and a steady stream of misinformation coming from the advocacy side of things (marijuana has certainly killed people—although never by overdose).

And often that information needs some interpretation, because information in a vacuum sometimes isn't enough. People need perspective, and sometimes it helps to have someone in the know point things out. Enter me, the new Tucson Weekly medical marijuana columnist.

My name is Brad Poole. You might have seen my name around Southern Arizona for the past couple of decades or so. I'm well-positioned to reflect on cannabis news. For the past few years, I was a freelance writer/photographer, covering national news in Arizona for Reuters news service and anyone else who would hire me. I've been published in every major newspaper from Chicago west (Denver Post, L.A. Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Arizona Republic) and other major news outlets (Huffington Post, People magazine), so as a journalist, I'm legit.

For most of my 23 years in journalism, I've covered government or supervised reporters who did. I covered the Bush-Clinton race in 1992 in college, then went on to start my career as a political reporter in Illinois. As an assistant city editor at the Tucson Citizen, I supervised a team of reporters covering government and the border, then went on to focus at the Citizen on enterprise reporting across a spectrum of Southern Arizona news—politics, government, crime, the environment. I covered every election from 1992 to 2010. I've won a fair number of journalism awards, but I'll let the Tucson Weekly brag about those, should the editors choose to.

And I am also a medical marijuana patient, something I have never made a big secret of but have never admitted in such a public way. Like many of you, I got my card for chronic pain. My spine isn't what it used to be, and doctors (several of them) agree, so I qualify for a medical card. I also recently got a job working in the cannabis industry. I've done a little consulting for dispensaries in the past few years, but in February I accepted a full-time job in the business—brand manager for Bloom Dispensaries, a Phoenix company that manages Bloom Phoenix, Bloom Tucson and The Prime Leaf in Tucson. So I'm an industry insider now.

Before you scream "conflict of interest," know this: I am not going to pretend to be objective as I write about medical marijuana. That's not what opinion columns are for. I plan to offer you reasoned arguments in favor of medical marijuana, mostly with a focus on science and law, two things I understand well. The things I don't understand, I will ask someone about so I can give you good, credible information.

Although I will be replacing J.M. Smith in this space, there are some things he did that I won't do. I won't review any dispensaries, because that would be a conflict, considering I work for a company that manages several. The Weekly plans to tap one of you for that role, now that the cantankerous Mr. Smith is gone. And I won't call people names or raise hyperbolic alarms; I'll leave that to someone else. I will not focus on local issues. I will certainly write about Tucson and Arizona generally from time to time, but my main focus will be on the broader issues that drive the national debate. I will write about issues that affect Arizona, but not normally issues that affect only Arizona.

So, with that, here I am.

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